8. Make higher education affordable for everyone, in part by halving the growth in college tuition over 10 years. Ensure by the end of the decade that the U.S. has more people with college degrees than any other country, recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in 10 years, help 2 million workers attend community college.
9. "My plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet— because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke." From his convention speech, this was a rare reference to climate change from a president who pledged strong action in a first term, then fell mostly silent about it after promised legislation to cap emissions failed. Even so, Obama has come at the issue in other ways, treating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the law and steering billions of dollars into cleaner energy.
10. Strengthen Medicare by reducing the cost of health care. Steps already taken under the health care law improve benefits while cutting payments to hospitals and other providers by more than $700 billion over a decade — cuts used to help working-age Americans get insurance.
11. "We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future." In October, manufacturers added 13,000 jobs after shedding 27,000 the previous two months — not the makings of a renaissance. Obama has set an ambitious target, considering that manufacturing jobs have been steadily declining for nearly two decades.
12. Consolidate a "whole bunch" of federal agencies dealing with business issues into one new department led by a secretary of business.
1. Create 12 million jobs in four years. Romney sets a modest bar with this oft-heard pledge; economists think about that many jobs or more will be created regardless of the outcome Tuesday. To add 12 million, the workforce would have to grow by an average of 250,000 a month, a reasonable prospect when there is no recession. Since July, the economy has created an average of 173,000 jobs a month.
2. "I'm not going to raise taxes on anyone," a pledge also rendered as, "I will not raise taxes on the middle class." Romney promises not only to keep the Bush tax cuts for all but to bring down rates a further 20 percent. He'd also eliminate the capital gains tax for families making below $200,000 and cut the corporate tax to 25 percent from 35 percent. Although the promised cuts are clear enough, just how he would pay for them is a mystery. He's talked about reducing some deductions and exemptions in the tax code but won't say which.
3. Repeal Obama's health care law, his clarion call since the GOP primaries. Rolling back the massive overhaul, now that it has had more than two years to sprout roots, could be a massive undertaking of its own. Some of his promises in this area are showmanship, such as his pledge to issue waivers from the law to all 50 states on the first day of his presidency. Many states don't want out of the law, and it can't be dismantled with the mere stroke of his pen anyway. In any event, the law's repeal is one big promise he will be judged on, especially by the tea party activists who were suspicious early on about his conservative credentials.
4. Balance the budget by 2020. Vital specifics are lacking from this pledge, such as which big federal programs he'd cut and how else he would save money when also wants to cut taxes, increase military spending and restore more than $700 billion in Medicare cuts over 10 years.
5. "We will achieve North American energy independence by 2020." By that, he means the U.S. would have its energy needs completely met by its own resources and those of Canada and Mexico. As with Obama's pledge to cut oil imports by half, Romney's promise has become conceivable — if still a steep climb — thanks to technology and market forces that have brought vast reserves of natural gas, along with other energy sources, within reach.